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What are the risk factors?

The main type of primary liver cancer, HCC, is most often related to long-term (chronic) infection caused by the hepatitis B or C virus. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the link between hepatitis and liver cancer.

Liver scarring (cirrhosis) can also increase a person’s risk of developing HCC. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs and naturally produced toxins. It also slows the liver’s production of proteins and other substances.

Cirrhosis may develop slowly over months or years. It can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • hepatitis B or C
  • fatty liver disease – often related to a high-carbohydrate diet, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, or having type 2 diabetes
  • alcohol consumption (with or without fatty liver disease)
  • type 2 diabetes (with or without fatty liver disease)
  • genetic disorders such as iron overload (haemochromatosis) or low levels of a particular protein that can cause tissue in the lungs and liver to break down (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency).

Smoking tobacco also increases a person’s risk of developing HCC. People with more than one risk factor for HCC have an increased risk of developing the disease.